What is a False Prophet?
In Matthew 24:3-8, Jesus warned his disciples that in the last days, there would be many false prophets. Some would claim to be Jesus Christ and would be believed by many. Others would, according to Paul (2 Timothy 4:3-4) ignore sound doctrine and instead gather false teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear. These are false prophets.
A false prophet does not need to be a religious person or call himself a prophet. Many secular writers, speakers, and television personalities devote much of their time to denying Jesus Christ and leading people away from Him. A secular false prophet can often be more dangerous than a religious one for this reason, since they close the mind to things of the spirit. From the beginnings of time, men have had to struggle to know who the true prophet was and to decide whether or not to follow him. Even great prophets like Moses and Noah had to face those who saw them as false prophets.
Because so many religions are unwilling to believe God still speaks to mankind, religious people find themselves struggling to know what it is God wants them to do or to believe. They have the Bible, but there are many translations, each of which alters the meaning a bit. Sometimes the Bible simply confuses even the great scholars, who debate the meanings of its verses. While it is a valuable resource, and one used by Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), it is not always an easy source for knowing just what God wants us to know. Readers of two different religions will translate the verses in two different ways.
God is not the God of confusion. Confusion is Satan’s tool, not God’s. Being all-wise, God naturally would choose a better way for people to know what is true and what is not. Would he expect us to listen to a million conflicting voices and then have to guess which teachings to believe? Of course not.
The Bible clearly outlines how God communicates with his children. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” God promised He would help us know what is true because He would tell the prophets, who would then tell us.
There are some who say that once Jesus died, God discontinued the prophets and vowed never to speak to His children again. While it’s true there have been periodic times of apostasy among God’s children, when prophets were withdrawn because the people had chosen not to listen to them, God has always restored the prophets after a while. It’s also clear He did not withdraw the prophets immediately upon Jesus’ death. In Acts 15:32, we read:
And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
This was after the death of Jesus Christ, so we can see prophecy continued after the death and resurrection of the Savior. They were not false prophets—they were apostles, who also serve as prophets, seers, and revelators in God’s Church. The Bible says the Savior’s church is built on a foundation of prophets and apostles, with Jesus Christ as our cornerstone.
And yet, despite the Bible’s warning that God’s true church must have a foundation of prophets and apostles and its promise that God will do nothing without first telling His prophets, very few churches even claim to have a prophet or apostle. When they aren’t sure what the Bible means, they are left to guess at it. This is why there are so many churches in the world today, why doctrine is too often chosen by councils like the one at Nicene, and why some churches put truth to a vote. They don’t have anyone who communicates with God directly to learn what is true.
And seeing this makes it clear why a loving God would not leave His children to struggle along without a guide as they prepare for the last days. The world is very different from the New Testament world. We need a prophet’s guidance to show us how to navigate this complex world.
In the 1800s, a teenager named Joseph Smith faced many of the problems we’ve discussed here. He visited church after church and heard conflicting teachings. Every church was sure it had it right—but they couldn’t all be right. He read in the Bible that if you ask God for wisdom, God will give it to you. (See James 1:5.) Wisdom was what he needed, so he went into the woods to pray. He asked to know which church was God’s church. God and Jesus Christ appeared to him, God introducing Jesus and Jesus answering his question. He was told none of them had the complete truth and to wait.
As a young adult, he received a visit from an angel named Moroni, who tutored him in preparation for the restoration of the complete gospel. When he was ready, Joseph Smith was shown records Moroni had hidden away in ancient times, when he lived on earth. These records are now known as the Book of Mormon. Mormon was a prophet—Moroni’s father—and is not worshipped by Mormons. He is treated in the same way Mormons and other Christians treat prophets from the Bible.
The Book of Mormon serves as proof that Jesus Christ really was divine and the Son of God, not just an ordinary prophet or teacher. Jesus was known to these people before He was even born, and He appeared to them on the American continent after his death and resurrection. This visit makes clear Jesus is the Savior of all, not just the people who lived in his small, geographical region.
Joseph Smith became the first prophet of the restored gospel. He fulfilled God’s promise that God will always work through prophets to deal with us. Since that time, there has always been a prophet on the earth and will be until Jesus Christ returns and there is no longer a need for one.
How can you know if the modern Mormon prophet is a true prophet or a false prophet? You can know in the same way Joseph Smith learned not to join any of the existing churches. If you have faith in the Bible, you will know that as James promised in the New Testament, you can ask God to tell you what is true. While some say we must not trust James’ promise, because you can’t tell who is answering you, Mormons disagree. They trust the Bible and they trust God. If He makes a promise, He finds a way to keep it. This means He will help you to know the source of the answers He sends. Satan cannot bring feelings of peace and joy.
Mormons, even children, are taught they must never take anyone’s word for whether or not the Mormon prophet is the real prophet. They are taught they must pray and ask God to confirm that information for them—they know God will answer, so they have nothing to fear from teaching their members to do so. The Bible warns, in the same section that asks you to pray, that you must pray with complete faith, nothing wavering. This means you must be prepared to accept the answer, even if you hoped you wouldn’t receive the answer you did.
Why does it matter whether or not we know if God has sent a prophet? So many of the things religious people debate is essential to our salvation. Do you really want to guess about what is true when eternity is at stake? Do you want to take the word of a human being as to how to interpret the Bible? Or would you rather trust God, the only source of truth? By asking God what is true and what you must do, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
On the pages of this website, you will be able to find many of the teachings of the current Mormon prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Mormons first study an issue out and come to a conclusion. They then take what they believe is true to God and ask a yes or no question. If you ask if Thomas Monson is the Mormon prophet, a “yes” will feel peaceful, joyful, and right. You’ll feel what some people describe as a swelling in the heart. A “no” will lead to feelings of negativity, confusion, all the things that tell you God is not accepting your decision.
Remember, though, you must go into this with a complete desire to learn the truth, not just a confirmation of what you want to be true, and you must act on your answer. To ask God what is true and then to reject or ignore His answer is unworthy behavior in a Christian.
Millions of Mormons have put truth to the test. Try it yourself. Trust God—He is listening and He does hear and answer prayers.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.
Posted in Learning About Mormons